Launching an affiliate program is just the beginning; it is crucial to proactively focus on growing and managing the program. Effective program management involves various tasks, including recruiting affiliates, engaging them, enforcing program rules, keeping the program up to date, and ensuring timely payments. In the article below, we will provide an overview of the key areas to consider when running an affiliate program and estimate the time required for each area of focus: recruiting affiliates, activating and onboarding them, promoting engagement, monitoring and policing activities, implementing rewarding mechanisms, and optimizing the program for maximum success.
Recruiting is one of the most important but time-consuming activities to grow your affiliate program. After launching your program, this may require additional effort until you get a few engaged affiliates to promote your product or service. When it comes to affiliates, focus on quality over quantity. You want affiliates you can trust to represent your brand. The most common ways to recruit affiliates include:
Outreach - There are plenty of bloggers and influencers who are always looking for great products or services to promote. The process involves reaching out to these individuals or businesses directly and invite them to join your program.
Website Links - The easiest way to get your first affiliates to make sure you have added links or a simple form to your affiliate program on your website. Your customers can be your biggest fans and turn into successful affiliates.
Optimize your affiliate landing page - Many affiliates search Google to find affiliate programs. Using Search Engine Optimization (SEO), try and rank your program signup page for various targeted terms. Your affiliate landing page has both specific and broad language about your affiliate program. If your affiliate program sells t-shirts, make sure to include references to not just "t-shirt affiliate program" but also more general terms such as clothing or apparel.
Invite your customers - Inviting your customers is an easy and free way to acquire new affiliates. Your customers are familiar with your product and might already be sharing your product with friends or co-workers. Offering customers a commission on referred sales may incentivize them to share your product or service with more people.
For more tips read our essential guide to recruiting affiliates.
Expect to spend 30% of your time on affiliate recruitment.
Activation / Onboarding
The activation process involves reviewing affiliate applications, welcoming them to your program, and making sure approved affiliates get started promoting your brand. In some cases, this process might include incentivizing new or inactive affiliates to share links to your product/service to get their first sale.
Application review - Make sure affiliates who applied to your program meet your standards and match your brand expectations. One method of controlling who joins your affiliate program is to disable auto-approve of affiliate applications. Without auto-approve, it requires that you review and approve or deny each application. Set up a schedule to consistently review affiliate applications promptly.
How much information you know about affiliates will largely depend on the type of questions you ask when an affiliate signs up for your program. A few things to consider whether to approve an affiliate might include:
- Does the affiliate's website look professional?
- Does the affiliate have a website with some domain authority?
- How much traffic does the website get?
- Does the affiliate rank highly for terms related to your products?
- Is the affiliate in the same vertical?
To get an idea of an affiliate's traffic or ranking for specific keywords, consider using a tool such as SEMRush or Ahrefs to look up various details on their website. Keep in mind that some affiliates do not promote affiliate links through their website. If you have any questions about how an affiliate might promote your business, ask them in the application form, or reach out to them directly via email.
Affiliate Welcome Email - After accepting an affiliate into your program, make sure to automatically send them an email containing everything they need to know about your program and how to promote your product or service.
Make sure affiliates started sharing or posting their affiliate links - Many affiliates sign up for programs but don't take steps to begin promoting the product or service for various reasons. In many cases, they might need a nudge to get started. The first thing to do is to review your Dashboard to see if the affiliate has started sending any traffic to your website. If you don't see any traffic, you might want to reach out to them directly to see if they have any questions about your program or need additional creatives. For those who have been sending traffic but no sales, it might be worth reviewing their website/traffic sources to see if you can provide any tips on conversions.
Incentivize affiliates for the first sale - One method of encouraging affiliates to get started after joining your program is adding a time-boxed incentive bonus. Create an activation promo that offers a higher commission rate or special gift after getting their first affiliate sale within 30 days. Such incentives might be enough to start getting your affiliates to promote your product or service.
Expect to spend 20% of your time on activating and onboarding affiliates.
The purpose of engaging affiliates is to motivate, educate, and retain. It is an ongoing requirement to manage and grow your program. Maintain relationships with current affiliates and treat affiliates like them as your sales team. Provide affiliates with educational materials to best promote you. Remember, it's easier to keep affiliates than replace them. Below are a few types of engagement related tasks:
Create affiliate specific promotions - Affiliate promotions may correlate with your product or service promotions but should be altered to incentivize affiliates. Have an internal promotional calendar and let affiliates know well in advance of specific promotions related to holidays or events.
Educate and motivate - Provide tips and resources to current affiliates to help them increase performance. If you found that specific banners, text links, or messaging has helped increase conversions rates, let your affiliates know. Educate your affiliates on your product or services or overall mission. This type of affiliate training is useful as an email-sequence to automate the process with a series of emails sent over a few weeks or months.
Responding to affiliate queries - Do your best to respond to affiliate questions promptly. The quickest way to demotivate an affiliate is to not respond to their questions or requests.
Rewards and bonus schedules - Motivate affiliates to continue to promote your brand. A method to incentivize affiliates includes creating affiliate specific rewards or bonus schedules. These can be set up anytime a year or centered around particular holidays or as a method to boost sales during slow months.
Publish affiliate specific blog posts and newsletters - Keep affiliates up-to-date of promotions, new products, sales, etc. Send monthly newsletters that contain promotional content, tips, success stories, or any changes to your program.
Fresh creative content - Add new creatives such as banners, product photographs, or brand materials for affiliates. If you have creatives that convert well for in your own advertising efforts make sure to share them with your affiliates.
Expect to spend 20% of your time engaging affiliates
At times affiliates will abuse affiliate programs unintentionally or intentionally. Protect your brand reputation and avoid paying unnecessary commissions by monitoring your brand online and ensuring that affiliates are following your terms and conditions. A few areas to monitor include:
Traffic and sales review - This process typically involves reviewing the information in your affiliate dashboard to look for any sudden changes or peculiarities that might include: traffic surges, sales increases, or increased fraudulent transactions.
Review customer complaints - Sometimes, customers will bring to your attention things such as incorrect coupons, false advertising, or force customers to click on links to pass on the affiliate tracking information. When a customer brings up this type of issue, it is essential to find the website or affiliate that is the source of the problems.
FTC requirements - The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for making sure businesses follow ethical business practices. The FTC requires that affiliates disclose any relationships with merchants, brands, or products on their websites. The disclosures must be placed near the recommendation and written in an easily understandable way. Your terms and conditions should outline an affiliate's requirements to follow the FTC disclosure requirements.
Brand monitoring - Common violations of affiliate terms and conditions may include:
- Trademark bidding
- Impersonating your brand or website
- Inaccurate representation of brand or product
- Sharing exclusive coupons
- Generally sharing wrong discounts or information.
- Not following your brand guidelines.
If you find any violations, you will need to decide how to enforce the policies. Consider the consequences for specific violations to your terms and conditions. It might involve sending an affiliate a formal warning or suspension from your program. In many cases, affiliate managers specify in their terms and conditions that if an affiliate violates any of the rules, they will not receive any further commissions.
Expect to spend 5% of your time monitoring your brand and enforcing your program terms
Affiliates want to get paid on-time based on the agreed-upon terms. Late payments create tension with your affiliates. Many affiliates invest not only time but also money in promoting your product and service. Set up a day on your calendar to review commissions and pay your affiliates.
Commission review - Before paying out commissions, do a quick check of the commissions to look for any significant changes or inconsistencies since the last payment. If something appears abnormal, it might be worth reviewing the specific affiliates' traffic or commissions before releasing funds. Consider adding a locking period of a month or two before releasing affiliate commissions. Adding this time will allow you to consider returns, cancelled orders, or fraudulent orders before releasing commissions to affiliates.
Timely payouts - Make sure to pay affiliates on a schedule based on your program terms.
Pay Bonuses - Pay affiliates any promised bonuses or rewards as the result of specific promotions or contents.
Expect to spend 5% of your time reviewing commissions and paying affiliates.
Managing your affiliate program should involve continuous optimization. Figure out what works and do more of it.
Affiliate promotions - Review the success of past affiliate promotions and create new ones. Start an affiliate promotional calendar to help with both the planning and implementation of specific campaigns. Make sure to give affiliates advance notice of a few days to prepare to push your promotions.
Refresh or optimize your creatives - All your affiliate creatives should be updated and aligned with your general promotions to keep a consistent message on the creatives, landing page, and website. Creatives should communicate one key message and have a clear Call to Action (CTA). Review conversion rates for individual creatives to help focus on what is working or not working. This may include your text links, banners, product images, pre-written copy, landing pages, and email templates.
Conversion rates - Make sure your landing and product pages convert well. Conversion rates will vary greatly among websites, but there is almost always room for improvement. To calculate your conversion rate, use this formula: orders ÷ visitors × 100. So if last month your website had 4,000 visitors and you sold 10 products, your conversion rate would be 0.25% (10/4000 = .002 x 100 = 0.25%). If you increase conversions on your website, it will also help your affiliates.
Increase conversion rates by optimizing your website. A specific few methods include working on shopping cart abandonment efforts, adding live chat, offering a money-back guarantee, increasing page speed, removing distractions, and adding testimonials and reviews. For more ideas to increase conversions,
Competitive research - Understand how your competitors are successful and adopt some of their practices. Don't be shy, apply for your competitors' affiliate program, and see how they engage affiliates, view their creatives, and strategies for increasing their affiliates' success. Competitive research may be inspiring and show you some untapped potential for optimizing your affiliate program.
Save time with automation - Affiliate programs can be very rewarding financially; however, they do take a lot of work. Consider automating certain parts of your program to save more time for optimizing your program and engaging affiliates. At LeadDyno, we provide a variety of tools that will help save you time which includes: email sequencing, affiliate invitations for new customers, and automated affiliate emails.
Expect to spend 20% of your time optimizing your affiliate program.
Successful affiliate programs require a focus in a wide variety of areas. Tasks include the recruitment of affiliates, getting those affiliates to actively participate in your program, keep them engaged and performing, checking to make sure they are playing by the rules, paying affiliates for their performance, and continually optimizing your program.
See how LeadDyno can take your affiliate marketing strategy to the next level. Let’s set up a 1:1 demo to get your questions answered.